Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Where's the outrage?

Last year, everyone's knickers seemed to be in a twist over the idea that a company controlled by Dubai, one of the few strongly pro-American parts of the Arab world, was not fit to safely manage US port operations with arguably one of the most patriotic sectors of the US workforce: members of US labor organizations who unload ships in our nation's ports.

No one seems to be at all upset that General Electric just sold its plastics division to a company controlled by Saudi Arabia, and there hasn't been a squeak of opposition to the just announced injection of Chinese government money into the Blackstone private equity firm for a 10% stake in a company that's about to go public and give its partners a $5 billion payday. This is a successful company that's buying up and taking other companies private, and moving the jobs in those companies out of the US.

You can't move US port jobs to a less-developed country. They have to unload the ships here. But you can make plastics and cars without American workers. And if you control those industrial platforms (plastics factories and heavy machinery manufacturing facilities) you have a lot of say in whether the US can build equipment it needs or may need to defend itself in the future.

Where's the outrage?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Get back to your First Life, people!

Eric Kintz, Vice President of Global Marketing Strategy & Excellence for HP, has made a very cogent argument that supports all of the gut instincts I've had about Second Life, the Linden Labs "metaverse" where people get to create avatars for themselves that might or might not be human. A lot of people are REALLY passionate about Second Life, including some folks in the PR community.

Lots of computer companies have invested tons of capital to create a presence there. Car companies have showrooms that look beautiful, but are not staffed with salespeople 24/7. The result is a very creepy feeling world that seems a lot like EPCOT after the park closes. All the lights are on and the eery new age music is still playing, but there's no one there, most of the time.

And when there is a meeting, there are a lot of people walking around barely clothed (free membership doesn't include Linden dollars to buy wardrobe, you have to pay to play there!). And these people communicate by "air typing" on keyboards that they can't afford to buy. No one talks, they just type.

But there's a mad rush among some PR people to convince their clients that they simply MUST launch that new product or have that executive press briefing in Second Life to demonstrate how "with it" they are. I've been involved in technology in some form or another since the 1970s. That must be why I still don't get this one.

Take a look at Eric's 10 reasons and decide if you need to be there.

Top 10 Reasons as to why I still need to be convinced about marketing on Second Life

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bus Week publisher says Murdoch likely to get WSJ by end of the year

The Wall Street Journal is likely to lose its independence by the end of the year, and will probably succumb to an enhanced takeover bid by Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp, according to BusinessWeek publisher John Byrne.

Byrne made the prediction durina a panel on the future of the news media we're attending at the Investment Company Institute's General Membership Meeting in Washington. Also on the panel with Byrne is L. Gordon Crovitz of Dow Jones, who said his company is more comfortable publishing the headlines than being in them.

We'll have some excerpts from the panel in our podcast in the next few days.

The feeling is mutual...funds...Just finished double-teaming the Communications Committee of the Investment Company Institute at a breakfast at ICI's General Membership Meeting conference in Washington this morning. ICI is the industry trade association representing mutual fund companies.

Matt Schifrin
I presented a cautionary take on blogs for corporate communications professionals in the group, and Matt Schifrin, personal finance editor of speaking about how Forbes has integrated blogs of responsible commentators into its coverage.

The key word here is "responsible." Athough Matt argued that the blogosphere is very important to Forbes, he also noted that they have evaluated blog commentators and only post content from those they deem reliable or responsible.

Matt noted that Forbes editors still review the blog postings and edit/fact-check as needed.

I said to him afterwards that this approach is really just putting the traditional PR-journalist relationship into a new vocabulary. The bloggers Matt is using on are the same people to whom Forbes has always turned, reputable equity analysts and mutual fund commentators, who now don't have to mail out their opinions or put them on a fax machine. What they really have is the benefit of the blogosphere as a distribution mechanism to more efficiently get Forbes the content we PR people used to contribute via hard copy delivered by fax, messenger, overnight services, etc. Now, they sit at their computers and the content comes to them.

So call it embracing the bloggers, or bringing social media into the conversation, or whatever. What's most important is that Forbes brings its own reliable, trusted brand and disciplined approach to journalism to the content screening process, which is what is lacking in much of the blog-bloviation that's going on out there.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Praise may be hurting kids more than it helps

Last week, in "The Most Praised Generation Goes to Work," Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow reported about how companies have to teach managers that younger workers need constant praise, even for arriving on time to work, because of the way they have been brought up.

Such younger workers have been overpraised since childhood, and taught to believe they are extraordinarily special. So now we have to throw confetti at them, send them thank you notes almost daily by email or in person, and on and on.

Zaslow has just reported in today's Wall Street Journal on the feedback he's received from the first article, and it reminded me of an experience we had a couple of years ago.

My youngest daughter was co-captain of her junior varsity cheerleading squad. The girls were competing in one of these regional cheer competitions that have elevated cheerleading from its former role as an adjunct to boys' sports. They were one of two squads competing in a particular level of the competition, and at the end, during the awards ceremony, the girls went wild when they heard the announcer report that the "First place in the JV division goes to Cherry Hill East!"

My daughter and her co-captain proudly retrieved their trophy and went back to a big celebratory group hug with the rest of the team. (You can watch the team video I created that includes the celebratory moment here.)

Just as our girls were jumping up and down hugging each other, the announcer declared that the "Championship Trophy" in that division had gone to the other team.

In other words, our girls didn't come in first, they came in second of two teams, or, as we would have said in a less-praiseworthy time, they were LAST.

But in the interests of overpraising (and maybe a little resume stuffing?), the competition organizers didn't award first- and second-place trophies, they awarded Championship and First-Place.

Even my daughter saw through that. On the ride home, she told us "When we realized that we came in second, we felt really stupid for going all crazy and happy like that."

Somewhere, some kid is probably listing that first place trophy on a college application, too. Who's going to check?

The bottom line is, as Zaslow noted, we are not doing our kids any good by making them think they can never fail. They need to have normal disappointments in life.

When I was laid off from a job in the early 1990s and went to a job-seeker support group at Trinity Episcopal Church in Princeton, we jokingly called it a "character-building exercise." But it really was, and our kids need some smaller ones before they have to cope with those bigger ones.